1990 Season Review

Prost CoverFerrari

1. Alain Prost fr
2. Nigel Mansell gb

A solid effort from Ferrari and with a little less bad luck the team could have taken the Constructors’ title. The Ferrari 641 was a lovely little runner and was arguably a better car than the McLaren. It certainly was the only car to consistently challenge McLaren for form all year. A frustrating year for both drivers, though, with Prost missing out on his fourth title in gut-wrenching fashion and Nigel thoroughly dispirited by his constant breakdowns, if mollified by an uptick in late-season form.

Image result for 1990 tyrrellTyrrell-Ford

3. Satoru Nakajima jp
4. Jean Alesi fr

The innovative and striking 019 chassis could never quite make the most of its potential thanks to the limitations of its Ford engine and – if we’re being brutally honest – of the journeyman Nakajima. Jean Alesi certainly put himself in the shop window with some great drives and the team will look forward to having top-of-the-line Honda power in 1991. Alesi will leave big boots to fill, but Ken Tyrrell is a good talent-spotter.

Image result for 1990 williamsWilliams-Renault

5. Thierry Boutsen be
6. Riccardo Patrese it

A disappointing season in all, though there were high spots with a win apiece for their two drivers. The Renault engine is not only powerful but good at laying its power down consistently, but something was just not quite right with the FW13B chassis that prevented two talented drivers using it to the full. There has also been a sense that, good though Boutsen and Patrese have been, there has just been a “star quality” lacking and the return of Mansell for 1991 could bring better results.

Image result for 1990 brabhamBrabham-Judd

7. Gregor Foitek ch / David Brabham au
8. Stefano Modena it

A bit of a dismal year for the veteran team all told, with Modena’s fifth place at the season opener in Phoenix proving the only points all year with David Brabham looking distinctly out of his depth and often failing to qualify. Judd’s engines have proved underpowered and unreliable this year but a switch to Yamaha for 1991 may be a jump from frying pan to fire given their previous record with Zakspeed. The team can at least look forward to the return of old boy Martin Brundle.

Image result for 1990 arrowsArrows-Ford

9. Michele Alboreto it
10. Alex Caffi it / Bernd Schneider de

Two talented drivers in Alboreto and Caffi came into 1990 with high hopes after the team’s good showings in 1989 but with the same chassis and engine, it just goes to show that to stand still is to move backward: with seven DNQs and just two points over the season, it was a pretty forgettable year. The Footwork concern’s naming-rights sponsorship for 1990 will help with the finances, and the incoming Porsche engine is rumoured to be powerful.

Image result for 1990 lotus lamborghiniLotus-Lamborghini

11. Derek Warwick gb
12. Martin Donnelly gb/ Johnny Herbert gb

After a third disastrous season in a row – and one that very nearly ended in tragedy – there is a very real danger that the venerable Lotus team might fold over the winter. No sponsors, no engines and no drivers for 1991 have yet been announced, and there are rumours that all is not well on the management front either. It would be a shame for such a great name to die and race fans everywhere will hope something happens soon.

Image result for 1990 osellaOsella-Ford

14. Olivier Grouillard fr

Another season of the same for the hard-trying Osella team, with just four finishes, none of them in the top ten, and seven DNQ and DNPQ results. After a decade of effort with nothing to show for it, rumours are that Enzo Osella is finally ready to sell up, and that Gabriele Rumi, head of main sponsor Fondmetal, is interested. Remains to be seen what will come of the team over the winter.

Image result for 1990 leyton houseLeyton House-Judd

15. Maurício Gugelmin br
16. Ivan Capelli it

A dreadful start to the season saw the bright blue cars fail to qualify on a number of occasions before designer Adrian Newey figured out a glitch in the wind tunnel that had been feeding them false data, and corrected it – before leaving the team. After a sudden brilliant race in France where the cars ran first and second for lap after lap and Capelli took a great second place, Newey’s absence was felt as the team sank back into midfield obscurity thanks to the underpowered Judd engine and reliability problems.

Image result for 1990 agsAGS-Ford

17. Gabriele Tarquini it
18. Yannick Dalmas fr

Everybody respects the little French garage team for continuing in F1 on such a small basis, but the statistics don’t lie: the AGS cars troubled the grid just nine times in 1990. A new car brought improvement after Mexico, before which the team had only got through Pre-Qualifying once, but it still wasn’t enough to achieve anything of note. Will they make it to 1991?

Image result for 1990 benettonBenetton-Ford

19. Sandro Nannini it / Roberto Moreno br
20. Nelson Piquet br

Best season yet for the “United Colours” with a solid third place in the Constructors’ race, two back-to-back wins at the end of the season and their first 1-2 finish in Japan. The loss of Nannini will be a blow to the team but Piquet looked revitalised and happy again after his two years in the misfiring Lotus, and the team will look forward to 1991.

Image result for 1990 dallaraBMS Scuderia Italia Dallara-Ford

21. Emanuele Pirro it/ Gianni Morbidelli it
22. Andrea de Cesaris it

Just seven finishes (one of which was then disqualified) all year tells its own story: the Dallara was simply shockingly unreliable. The Ford engine was solid enough, if not the fastest, but between a lack of money and staff for good car preparation and de Cesaris’ wayward tendencies, there ended up not being much chance of scoring a point. They will want to do better next year.

Image result for 1990 minardiMinardi-Ford

23. Pierluigi Martini it
24. Paolo Barilla it / Gianni Morbidelli it

The little Minardi team will be disappointed not to have scored in 1990 after a pretty productive 1989. Paolo Barilla’s pasta money couldn’t make up for looking completely at sea in F1 and failing to qualify five times, and Ferrari test driver Gianni Morbidelli might be a good shout for next year, when the team can look forward to being the first to receive customer Ferrari engines. Do good times beckon?

Image result for 1990 ligierLigier-Ford

25. Nicola Larini it
26. Philippe Alliot fr

Another barren year for the “French national team”, despite having one of the more reliable packages out there: Alliot hasn’t done much to redeem his reputation for being a mobile roadblock, and has been disqualified twice and failed to qualify once, but even when the team dropped into Pre-Qualifying, Nicola Larini finished 13 of 16 races and came agonisingly close to scoring twice. Lamborgini engines beckon for 1991: they haven’t helped Lotus that much, but the Lola looked tidy this year so who knows?

Image result for 1990 mclarenMcLaren-Honda

27. Ayrton Senna br
28. Gerhard Berger at

One Drivers’ and one Constructors’ title, neither delivered in exactly the manner that Ron Dennis would like, and the team won fewer races than Ferrari this year. If a double-winning season could be said to be a disappointment, then McLaren’s 1990 is just that. Gerhard Berger, something of a firebrand at Ferrari, looked disappointingly anonymous here and the team will hope for more from the Austrian going forward.

Image result for 1990 larrousseLarrousse Lola-Lamborghini

29. Éric Bernard fr
30. Aguri Suzuki jp

Even before Suzuki’s historic and thoroughly merited podium finish at Suzuka, the Larrousse team were already having a pretty good year: they had already scored points five times, with a double top-six finish in Britain – not bad for a team that started the year in Pre-Qualifying. The difference in performance between the two Lambo-powered teams of Larrousse and Lotus has been interesting, but neither will have the engine next year.

Image result for 1990 coloni c3cColoni-Subaru/Ford

31. Bertrand Gachot be

Such a shame for a talented driver like Gachot to be shackled to an uncompetitive whale like the Coloni. Even after ditching the porky, asthmatic Subaru engine, performances barely improved and if it weren’t for the even worse times of the EuroBrun and Life teams, Gachot would probably never have made it through PQ, even in the new C3C chassis. As it was, he never once troubled the starters.

Image result for 1990 eurobrun


33. Roberto Moreno br
34. Claudio Langes it

Of all the odd decisions in the sport of F1, that of the EuroBrun squad to double down on failure and expand to two cars in 1990 is one of the oddest. And for them to then essentially ignore number 2 driver Langes makes you wonder why the bothered. A freak 16th place in USA qualifying was the highlight and by the mid-season Walter Brun was also wondering why he bothered. EuroBrun folded after three years, no results and just in time to give the long-suffering Moreno his shot at the big time.

Image result for 1990 onyx monteverdiMonteverdi-Ford

35. Stefan Johansson se / Gregor Foitek ch
36. JJ Lehto fi

The saga of the Onyx team, which flamed briefly and then flamed out just as quickly, would make a good movie, if it weren’t just too improbable to be true. The team seemed to promise a comeback for Johansson, only to devolve into court cases and mudslinging. Gregor Foitek’s credibility seems fatally wounded – bought the drive by his dad, who then withdrew funding when the car looked dangerous. About the only one left with reputation intact is JJ Lehto, who simply got his head down and drove. Hope for better things for the Finn.

Image result for 1990 life racingLife

39. David Brabham au / Bruno Giacomelli it

Hahahahahaaa. Hahahahaha! Ahahahaha!

Now that the season is over and this farcically inept team with their ludicrous concept of an engine have miraculously managed not to kill anyone (largely by dint of spending most meetings stationary with bits all over the garage floor) we can laugh. Hopefully the experience of Life – along with Onyx and EuroBrun – will prove a lesson to businessmen everywhere that you can’t just buy into F1.


2 thoughts on “1990 Season Review

  1. “[McLaren] won fewer races than Ferrari this year”

    They actually won six races each. However, Ferrari *did* have five second places to McLaren’s four… 😉

    “Prost missing out on his fourth title in gut-wrenching fashion”

    …Not sure I agree with this.

    It certainly can’t be denied that the manner in which the championship was decided was terrible. However, Senna *did* retain a fairly strong position heading to Suzuka – the title would have been his if he had won or finished second behind anyone but Prost. And even if he *had* allowed Prost through at the first corner and settled for second behind him, Prost would have still had to win Adelaide.

    Mind you, things do get very interesting after that. Had Prost again won with Senna second, both drivers would have finished with 82 points (Prost having discarded his fifth place in Canada and one of his two fourths, Senna having discarded two of his three thirds), and the title would have been Prost’s by virtue of having seven wins to Senna’s six.

    As it was, Senna took pole and retired from the lead with 21 laps to go, at which point Prost only had Piquet ahead of him and Mansell bearing down on both of them. Ferrari would almost certainly have ordered Mansell to stay behind Prost so that the Professor could have a go at Piquet for the win and the title – but would Nige have obeyed?

    I know, I’ve drifted into ifs and buts. But the point I’m trying to make is, Prost still had a fair bit of work to do in these last two races in order to beat Senna, and that’s why I’m not sure I agree with the statement that he “missed out on his fourth title in gut-wrenching fashion”. I think I’d be more inclined to say that he was “denied the title in highly controversial fashion”, particularly as I’d also reckon that it was more gut-wrenching for him to lose the 1983 and 1984 championships… 😉


    1. All fair points – I guess what I was trying to get across was that he was really, *really* unhappy about it – he thought about retiring on the spot by all accounts. I’m planning to do a big proof-read of the whole site at some point soon so I may tweak the prose a little.


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